Europe
5:04 am
Thu February 20, 2014

Truce Brokered In Ukraine Appears To Be Breaking Down

Originally published on Thu February 20, 2014 6:38 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steven Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

A truce announced late last night between protestors and the government in Kiev, Ukraine broke down this morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

MONTAGNE: Those are the sounds of fighting in Kiev's main square. Reporters there have counted at least 10 bodies this morning, which means the death toll from the last few days is now more than three dozen. A group of European foreign ministers is in Kiev to meet with both sides. They'll return to Brussels to consider whether to impose sanctions on Ukraine. In a moment, we'll hear how things look from Moscow.

But first we go to NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, who is in Kiev's Independence Square, where most of the fighting is going on. Good morning.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: So what are you seeing there?

NELSON: It's absolute chaos here this morning. A lot of wounded being carried by on makeshift stretchers. I saw one dead person being carried by. I mean, there was a sheet over his head so one can assume that he didn't make it. There are sounds of, like, small explosions - I really don't know what it is exactly. One of the speakers on the main stage here is telling protestors to watch out for snipers from the rooftop.

The fighting is going on, I would say, maybe about a half mile, or even less, from where I'm standing. I can see the smoke billowing. And what happened - what seems to have happened overnight is that the protestors have taken back the October Palace, which was a building which the police had taken back on Tuesday. So they've actually managed to push police out of Independence Square, but at a great cost.

MONTAGNE: And Soraya, why did that truce come to nothing so quickly?

NELSON: Well, protestors I spoke to - and you have to understand it's very difficult to sort of get both sides of the story, you have to either be in one place or the other and the police are not very receptive to journalists. But what protestors are saying is that the police never - or some of the police, and some of what they describe as government paid-for thugs, never observed the truce, that they were throwing rocks, that they were engaging protestors overnight.

And, in fact, one person I interviewed earlier said that a sniper was on top of one of the roofs here and was captured and taken to a protestor headquarters building of some sort. And the other thing that's very interesting is though there are police here who have surrendered - they don't want to be beaten by protesters. And so they are taken to safety.

I've seen this happen on several occasions here this morning, where you know, two or three policeman looking quite dazed and sort of hiding in fear are being protected basically by protestors who are taking them to some place safe since they've surrendered.

MONTAGNE: And what do the Ukrainian protestors want at this stage from the government?

NELSON: There's a lot of anger and disappointment at this stage. The feeling is that the president - President Viktor Yanukovych - has to go. No one seems to believe that he will come to some sort of negotiated settlement that will give them the democracy and the shared say in Ukrainian affairs that they are seeking.

And so there was not a single person that I talked to today who said that they held out any hope that either the truce, which of course we've seen did not hold, or the pledge to engage in some sort of talks with the opposition that would bring this bloodshed to an end will lead to anything.

MONTAGNE: Just finally, Soraya, do these protestors know about possible sanctions directed at people in the government? Does that give them any sense that things will go their way?

NELSON: Well, they would like to see the Europeans and the Americans step up their pledge or their threats of sanctions, specifically to target individuals and their bank accounts abroad. I mean the feeling is that the Western countries that claim they support what these protestors here are seeking, which is a democracy - a real democracy - shouldn't be handling money that's corrupt, you know, that they feel has been stolen by Yanukovych and his government.

MONTAGNE: Well, we'll be hearing more later as the day goes on. Thank you, Soraya.

NELSON: You're welcome, Renee.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson speaking to us from Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.